Journal-Advocate (Sterling)

Protect your financial informatio­n online

- Ann Bowey This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC. Ann Bowey is an Edward Jones financial advisor in Sterling.

If you’re an investor, you probably enjoy the convenienc­e of managing your accounts online. But you’ll also want to make sure that you’re not making it convenient for hackers, “phishers” and others with bad intentions to gain the same access.

Fortunatel­y, there’s a lot you can do to protect your privacy. Here are a few suggestion­s offered by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission:

• Use a strong password or passphrase. You’ll want to pick a password that would be virtually impossible for anyone to guess, employing capital and lowercase letters, plus symbols and numbers. Of course, you’ll want to record the password in a secure place so you won’t forget it. Instead of using a password, you may have the option of choosing a passphrase, which contains a series of words strung together. You’ll want to avoid phrases taken from popular culture or that are otherwise commonly used. And it’s also a good idea not to use phrases containing your name, birthday or other personal identifier­s.

• Activate your account alerts. When you turn on your account alerts, you’ll receive text messages or emails notifying you of certain activities, such as account logins, failed account login attempts, personal informatio­n changes, money transfers, adding or deleting of external financial accounts, and more. These alerts can help you monitor your accounts for fraud and verify your own moves, as well.

• Avoid using public computers to access investment accounts. If you’re at a hotel or library, try to avoid the temptation to use the computer to check in on your investment­s. But if you do use a public computer, at least take proper precaution­s. For starters, don’t leave data on a screen and walk away, even for a moment. And when you’re finished with the computer, log out of your account to end the online session. You may also want to change any password you used.

• Ignore suspicious links. Be suspicious of emails or text messages containing links claiming to be connected to your investment accounts.

These links could take you to websites designed to solicit sensitive account informatio­n, which could then be used for financial or identity theft. Even if the link seems to be coming from a business you know, you’ll want to be quite cautious – experience­d “phishers” can now create websites or online documents that look real. And keep in mind that legitimate investment firms will not ask you to divulge personal informatio­n without going through the password or two-step authentica­tion protocols already described.

The ability to connect with your investment accounts online can be extremely useful to you – and you’ll feel more comfortabl­e about these interactio­ns if you know you’ve done all you can to safeguard your informatio­n.

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